One of the things I’ve enjoyed about following the pen community and writing this blog over the past five years is watching smaller makers evolve and fine-tune their craft, especially where the products they offer are entirely unique from anything else out there. Pierre Miller, the man behind the Desiderata Pen Company, is one such penmaker. Pierre’s pens first came on my radar four or five years ago at the D.C. Pen Show, back when it was at the old (read: better) location in Tyson’s Corner and he showed up with early versions of his Daedalus pen fitted with Zebra G dip nibs, which was one of the first modern pens I had seen that allowed a user to combine the true vintage-style flex of a dip nib with the portability and larger ink reservoir of an eyedropper fountain pen.
Flex, of course, isn’t really my thing, as readers here are aware. I’m not a calligrapher, and most of my pen usage is daily user, office-style stuff. Flex nibs are fun to dabble with, but I always hesitate to shell out hundreds of dollars for a pen that I can’t use on a daily basis. Desiderata Pens didn’t really reappear on my radar until Pierre started offering the JoWo No. 6 nib option and different filling mechanisms in the “Soubriquet” model. After talking with Pierre at several different pen shows over the last couple of years, I finally picked up a Soubriquet in Los Angeles, and it’s seen steady use in the month since that show.
What I Like About the Desiderata Soubriquet
Pierre has extensive notes on his website in which he discusses the story behind the pen and explains the various design choices, which makes for an interesting read and provides a lot of insight into how he designs and makes pens. Here are a few of the highlights, which are also the features that I appreciate the most.
Size and Shape. The knock on a lot of modern custom pens is that they tend to be very large, especially when compared to vintage or vintage-inspired designs. The Soubriquet is the product of Pierre’s attempt to design a larger pen without “going overboard,” and he threads that needle quite well. The Soubriquet is about the same size as a Montblanc 146 (though much lighter), which is a great size for me in terms of ergonomics. I can comfortably use this pen posted and unposted, with the cap posting deeply on the tapered barrel. The section also tapers towards the nib, with the threads placed higher up on the barrel just below the ink window. I can’t emphasize enough how comfortable this pen is to write with for long periods of time.
Filling System and Ink Capacity. Since I opted for a JoWo 1.1mm stub nib, ink capacity and ink flow can become an issue. The Soubriquet features a “piston vacumatic” filling system, which uses an o-ring instead of a sac and operates like the filling mechanism on the TWSBI Go. Pierre designed the pen to allow one-handed filling, and it works as intended. You simply submerge the pen in ink and depress the plunger until the pen is full. This type of filler is also much easier to flush clean than a sac-based vacumatic pen. I was able to clean ink out of the pen and refill it with a different color in just a couple of minutes. The pen holds approximately 1.5ml, which will keep me writing for quite a while, even with a stub.
Clip. Earlier models of Desiderata pens were clipless, but the Soubriquet introduced a thin, wire-style clip made from 304 stainless steel. Despite the slim profile, this clip is VERY sturdy, and I’ve come to appreciate the distinct design element that the clip lends to the pen.
Ebonite Material. Pierre works extensively with ebonite, which many readers will recognize as a form of vulcanized rubber that’s been used to make pens (and bowling balls) for well over a hundred years. I’ve been looking to add a mottled/swirled ebonite pen to my collection for a while now, and when I spied the last briar ebonite pen on Pierre’s table, I knew this one was coming home with me. Ebonite has an unparalleled feel in the hand - it emits a warmth and has a softer feel to it than acrylic or other plastics, even though it’s still extremely durable.
Pierre urged me to make sure that everyone knows up front that Desiderata Pens are “small batch” manufacture, meaning that the pens are made in very small numbers in a one man shop. I guess that’s his way of saying that it’s not unusual to find small variances or imperfections on the pens, but other than a few barely perceptible tooling marks, the fit and finish on my Soubriquet is excellent. No issues or complaints whatsoever from me.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
I’m extremely happy with my Desiderata Soubriquet. I originally approached the purchase as a “tinkering pen” that I might use occasionally to practice handwriting and flex calligraphy, but the JoWo nib unit has worked so well that the pen has not left my daily carry for the past month. I do feel that I need to offer a note of caution: I have used the Zebra G nib in an earlier version of the Desiderata Daedalus that I borrowed, and while it does work well and can be quite enjoyable to use, fountain pens fitted with calligraphy dip nibs require much more frequent maintenance, as the nibs will deteriorate and need to be replaced on a monthly basis, if not sooner depending on how frequently you use the pen. If you are purchasing a Desiderata Pen specifically to take advantage of the Zebra G’s flex capabilities, I’d encourage you to read the resources available on the Desiderata website, and also watch some of Pierre’s YouTube videos in which he shows you how to set up the pen for this sort of writing. Be prepared to tinker with it!
As I mentioned above, I purchased this particular pen directly from Pierre at this year’s L.A. Pen Show, where he had just one of the Briar Ebonite models. The Soubriquet in this particular material is currently sold out, but on the website Pierre has indicated that he will consider requests to make more, so if you’re interested let him know! The Soubriquet runs anywhere from $225-250, which I find reasonable for a custom/small-batch pen with a non-cartridge/converter filling system. Pens ship with the Zebra G calligraphy nib, but JoWo No. 6 nibs are also available upon request, and it’s what I’ve been using since L.A. I likely will swap in the Zebra G in the near future to play around, but I’ve been enjoying this JoWo No. 6 stub so much I’ve not been motivated to change it out.
At the moment, Pierre has several other Soubriquet models available in his Etsy store, with additional Desiderata models for sale on his website. Pierre regularly attends pen shows, and during the last couple of shows he had a variety of Soubriquets in some unique acrylics not yet listed online. (Also, you definitely won’t want to miss the pre-order for the BAMF pen, which should ship within the next few months.)
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which help support the blog by paying me a small percentage of any purchases made through the link. I paid for the pen featured in this review with my own money, though Pierre did give me a slight discount on the purchase of a second nib unit.